Even YOU can make a great steak

Steak is one of the most difficult foods to make well.  It seems that something that seems so simple has perplexed so many people.  Here are a few tips that will guarantee that you make the best steak dinner ever.

Pick the right piece of meat

It’s important not to skimp on the quality of the meat.  Remember more expensive is not always better.  Steaks aged for 20 days or more will be more tender.  Cuts like fillet are more difficult to cook at home so choose sirloin, ribeye, or other cuts that have a little fat running through it.  Interestingly, the butcher recommended an onglet (or eye steak) which is a cheaper cut which gives you the feel of a fillet but half the price and easier to cook.  To make cooking easy, make sure that meat is one to 1.5 inches thick.  Remember once you buy them try to use them within one or two days.  Don’t freeze the steaks because the freezing/thawing process changes the consistency and the flavor of the meat.

Warm it up

Never cook a steak directly from the fridge.  When the cold meat hits the hot pan the muscle fibers will spasm resulting in a tough steak.  Make sure the meat warms to room temperature by leaving the steak on the counter for 20 – 30 minutes.  The closer to room temperature the meat is when you cook it; the more tender it will be.

Have the right tools

A heavy gauge non-stick pan or griddle pan are the best tools for cooking a good steak.  If you don’t have an iron skillet or griddle pan, just make sure you have a good non-stick pan that can take very very high heat without warping.  Make sure you have tongs or a spatula to turn the steak.  You don’t want to pierce the steak with a fork while it’s cooking.

Make it hot

The pan must be SUPER hot to cook a good steak.  Normally I leave the skillet on the stove on the highest heat for at least 10 minutes to make sure every surface of the pan is at its hottest. It’s hot if you sprinkle a drop or two of water in the pan and it cracks and sizzles and evaporates completely in a second or two. Here’s where I advise you unplug your smoke detector and turn on your exhaust fan and open the windows.  We’re going to make it really smoky.  Again, it’s really important that you are sure that the pan you are using is able to handle the high heat and distribute the heat evenly across the entire surface of the pan or you may have a fire on your hands.

Less is more

When it comes to seasoning a steak, less is best.  Simple kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper allows the flavor of a good steak to come through. Add a little butter and parsley as garnish after cooking makes it perfection.  I also recommend Montreal Steak Seasoning for a really good complement to steak.

Don’t overcook it

I know a lot of people will disagree but steaks are not meant to be eaten well done.  A little pink won’t hurt you and it adds flavor and juiciness to the meat.  It’s very difficult to cook a steak well done without ruining the flavor. This is because when you cook a steak to well done in the pan, when you remove it from the heat it will continue to cook.  By the time you eat it, it will be dry and tough.  A one to 1.5 inch steak should be cooked for four to six minutes on each side depending on how hot you can get your pan and how well done you want it.  Just try it once for me –  cook your steak to medium (well done on the edges pink in the center but no bleeding) and you’ll definitely understand the difference in taste and I bet you won’t get sick.

Let it rest

When you’ve cooked the steak, you’ve got to let it rest.  Resting allows the steak to settle down and distributes the juicy goodness throughout the meat. Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes before you serve it. Place the steaks on a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil or waxed paper (grease proof paper).  Also resist the urge to poke or pierce the meat to test if it’s done enough.

Steak with Garlic and parsley with Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 2

 

TOOLS

Heavy gauge frying pan or griddle pan

Mixing bowl

Non-stick baking Sheet

Tongs (or something to turn the steak without piercing it)

Garlic press

INGREDIENTS

Steak cut of choice 1 – 1.5 inches thick

2 tbls peanut, sunflower or vegetable oil (DO NOT use olive oil)

Kosher salt or sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic pressed

2tbls salted butter

2tbls chopped fresh parsley

Roasted Potatoes

4 large potatoes

10 shallots whole & whole (or 2 small onions quartered)

2 tbls Olive oil

1tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1 tbls fresh cracked black pepper

1 ½ tsp dried rosemary (or 1tbls fresh rosemary chopped)

Green salad to serve

METHOD

Preheat oven to 400F/200C

Start by removing the steak from the fridge.  Drizzle peanut oil on steaks and massage into the meat.  Season to taste with salt…be generous because some of the salt will burn off in the pan. Add pepper and set aside to allow to warm to room temperature.

While meat is warming wash and chop potatoes into equally sized chunks.  Place the chopped potatoes on a dish towel or paper towel and blot dry.  Place the dried potatoes in a mixing bowl along with shallots and add all of the remaining ingredients. Mix well to coat all potatoes. Place on baking sheet and place in oven.  Cook for 25 minutes.

Begin heating the pan for the steak. Place pan on stove on the highest setting. Heat the pan for 10 minutes (keep a close eye on it).  When the pan is hot, place one steak in the pan.  Allow the pan to heat back up to temperature for about a minute before adding the second steak.  Allow the steaks to cook (don’t touch them) for at least 4-5 minutes.  Turn the steaks and cook on the other side for 1 minute less than you cooked the first side.  Remove from pan and place on plate.  Cover with foil or wax paper.

At this point the potatoes should be done.  If so, remove from oven and set aside.

Make the butter by placing butter and pressed garlic in a microwave safe bowl.  When steaks have rested and you are ready to serve, heat butter in microwave for 30seconds to 1 minute until completely melted.  Add parsley and mix well.  Pour over steaks just before serving.


Cookies are supposed to make you happy!

I cannot profess that I am a great baker.  Some people believe that cooking and baking are one and the same but they are completely different.  Cooking is like painting or music.  It involves engaging all the senses to know when you’ve done it right.  You just throw in a bit of this and bit of that and when it smells just so, you know it’s going to taste good. Baking however is a science that requires the level of meticulous patience that I, quite frankly, do not possess in great quantities. Exact measurements calibrated to create this reaction or that gas which is the catalyst for light airy bread or tasty cakes.  Unless you have a degree in chemistry it’s nearly impossible to know if you can substitute this for that.  God forbid you use bread flour instead of cake flour because the differing levels of gluten may cause the consistency to …you get what I’m saying.

This being said, I have historically been unable to create tasty treats.   I have succeeded in making the worst cookies ever made in the history of baking.  I don’t know what went wrong.  I was attempting molasses cookies which everyone says should be simple but they’re not.  I made the dough in a haze of flour and popped the tray in the oven.  They came out in the guise of a tasty cookie.  Chest puffed up at my accomplishment, I took a bite.  You know that face that people get when they smell something bad?  You’ve seen it or done it.  It’s when all the features scrunch up to the center of their face and lips poke out.  It may involve a confused shaking of the head.  I discovered that this is the same face you get when you eat a bad cookie.

As I was about to pour the batter into the disposal, Mike walked in.  He asked what I was doing.  Looking like a kid caught, I explained that the cookies were not fit for human consumption – I had to throw them away. My husband, the wonderful man that he is, explained to me “Babe, you don’t make anything that doesn’t taste good.  Let me taste them.”  I warned him that they were really actually bad but he insisted.  He took his bite and I could see the chewing slow to near stop and his features  pinched into bad cookie face.   He swallowed hard, coughed and then said words that I will never forget “Babe, cookies are supposed to make you happy and these make me very very sad.”  It’s been about seven years since then and I didn’t bake again until about 6 months ago.  If my husband who will eat any concoction that I put in front of him can say this, we definitely have a problem.  Plus I just don’t want to bring cookie sadness into the world.

I think with age you gain patience and with patience you can learn how to bake. So recently, I began tackling my baking-phobia.  I’m actually pretty good now and I’ve mastered cookies.  Now my cookies make everyone very very happy.  This recipe for oatmeal cookies is my favorite.  It’s spicy, sweet, super easy and quick. Plus oatmeal and raisins make you feel a little less guilty when you eat half-dozen in one sitting.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Makes 18 two-inch cookies

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 12 minutes (but may vary depending on your oven)

Tools

Two large mixing bowls

Measuring cups & spoons

Cookie sheet

Mixing spoon

Two cutlery tablespoons

Spatula

Wax paper (greaseproof paper) or aluminum foil for cooling

 Ingredients

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups rolled oats (regular oats not instant)

¼ cup butter, softened (set the butter on the counter until it is room temp and you are able to press the back of a spoon through it)

¼cup butter flavored shortening (such as margarine or Crisco)

½ cup packed light brown soft sugar (pressed firmly in the cup until forms a mold of cup)

¼cup white sugar

1 egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½- ¾ cup black currants (or raisins)

Method

Preheat oven to 350F (175C)

In a bowl combine dry ingredients (all ingredients in list from flour through and including rolled oats). Remember when measuring ingredients in measuring cups the contents should over-fill the cup and the excess should be scraped off with the flat side of a butter knife.

In a different bowl, mix butter, shortening and both types of sugar.  The easiest way to mix these is to spoon sugar over butter press the back of the spoon into the mix until the sugar is pressed in, stir and repeat until all sugar is incorporated into the butter.

Add the egg and vanilla into the batter and mix until it is smooth and creamy.

Now add ¼ of the flour mixture.  Mix this into the batter until no flour is in the bowl.  Repeat this process until all the flour mix is added to the batter.

The last time you do this it’s going to be a bit tough getting it all incorporated but I swear it really will all get in there just keep at it.  The press and stir method that was used to mix the sugar into the butter will also work here.

Add in currants or raisins.

Using one of the cutlery spoons, scoop out a ball of dough.  Using the other spoon, push the ball onto the cookie sheet.  The balls should be about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

 Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes.  Keep an eye on the first batch because the cooking time may be longer or shorter.  The cookies are done when the tops no longer look wet and the edges are crispy.

Place a sheet of wax paper or aluminum foil on the kitchen counter.  Remove the cookies from the oven and leave them on the  cookie sheet for 1 minute to cool.  Then with a spatula, remove the cookies and place them on the wax paper to cool the rest of the way.  This will make the cookies extra soft and chewy.  If you have more dough, repeat the baking process but note if the cooking time was different and reset the time to the correct time for your oven.